child on a swing


How safe is your play area?


Hospitality businesses which rely on families as a key part of their trade, such as pubs, restaurants or hotels, will understand the benefit of providing play equipment for the children  happy kids mean happy families. But installing play equipment and failing to provide the relevant regular safety checks is a risky approach.

Last year, we announced that between 2014 and 2016, we received and average of 100 business insurance claims a year involving injuries to children at commercial properties, including beer garden play areas. And no doubt this is only the tip of the iceberg  for every insurance claim there are probably many more minor incidents which go unreported, but which may have a serious impact on a business's reputation.

The data also showed that since 2014 showed the most common injuries sustained by youngsters to be broken bones or cuts from falls, including tumbles from climbing frames, slides, trampolines, bouncy castles, rides and monkey bars. Other seemingly harmless objects were also cited in the claims, such as poles, goal posts, planters, and even other children, all of which should act as a reminder of the need to remain vigilant in prioritising outdoor play area safety.

Your outdoor play area safety checklist

  • Survey the public areas of the premises with a 'child’s eye' and make sure 'staff only' areas are secured/well-signposted, winter maintenance tasks are completed or made safe and maintenance equipment put away.
  • Check all public areas for obvious slip or trip hazards, e.g. moss and uneven paving; check any outdoor furniture as it is put out for the season ahead.
  • Check that any safety information signs are still present and clear, e.g. 'parents must supervise their children in this area'.
  • Make sure play equipment is properly maintained and inspected – there are professional play inspectors available through the Register of Play Inspectors International.
  • If external providers are being used to help attract families, e.g. inflatable bouncy castles undertake suitable checks to verify their credibility and request copies of relevant documentation, e.g. insurance and play inflatable inspection certificates.
  • Brief the staff on the need to be vigilant for children running around during food and drinks service, to pay particular attention to items which are damaged or faulty and not to be afraid to intervene if a child’s behaviour is either unsafe or spoiling other people’s enjoyment, particularly in play areas.
  • It may be a useful time to check first aid provision within the company both in terms of first aid kits and trained staff.
  • Carefully consider any particular activities being organised for children and families, e.g. outdoor activities, and put sensible precautions in place.

As the summer weather sets in, hospitality businesses will hold more open-air events and with increased numbers of guests to consider, health and safety should be front of mind.

Some businesses may not be as well-equipped in staffing, training or health and safety practices as bigger visitor attractions to ensure the safety of children’s equipment, but steps like those listed above can be taken to help reduce needless harm. A professional play inspector should also carry out full routine inspections and provide their report, and any checks carried out by the business should be recorded, so they can be used as evidence in the event of a liability claim against them.

It’s not just injuries that businesses should consider but also the potential damage to private property. We’ve even seen cases of boards and gazebos taking flight and damaging guests' cars, so great care and thought needs to be taken into account when prepping and mitigating risk for any event.

Sector Specialist

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Darren Seward

Sector Specialist

Darren has over 30 years’ experience, with expertise in both hospitality and food and drink manufacturing. He particularly enjoys the link between the two – from quality produce to the dining table. When not working, he can often be found under the bonnet of his classic Range Rovers.

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